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Canada: BC institutions post $340m surpluses

Higher education institutes across the Canadian province of British Columbia posted surpluses of over $340 million in 2018/19, Black Press Media has revealed after analysing the statements of 25 universities and colleges.

British ColumbiaBritish Columbia institutions posted $340m surpluses in 2018/19. Photo: Flickr/Giuseppe Milo

Growth... does not automatically equal revenue surpluses

A squeeze on government funding means universities in the region are relying on international tuition fees, some institutions have indicated.

According to the publication, the figure is more than double the $144 million in combined surpluses recorded in 2015/16.

Vice president of Partnerships at Camosun College Geoff Wilmshurst told The PIE News the numbers represent the “kind of revenue that both universities and colleges have been able to achieve from international student tuition”.

Wilmshurst’s institution has been able to make “key investments” in the past five years, he added.

Those investments are “especially in the area of student services that we would not have been able to make without the additional international student tuition revenue,” he explained.

Despite not benefitting from the levels of surpluses Black Press Media noted, Camosun has been able to increase the number of available seats in high demand programs like engineering for domestic students as a direct result of revenues, Wilmshurst said.

“Every penny earned has gone back into the college as investments either to support domestic and international student success or to improve our infrastructure.

“Year over year government funding declines as a percentage of our operating budgets and so these kinds of lines of revenue are critical to maintaining the standards of teaching excellence we pride ourselves on.”

“These kinds of lines of revenue are critical to maintaining the standards of teaching excellence we pride ourselves on”

Wilmshurst added that the revenue recorded by Black Press Media was not only recognisable in British Columbia “but in other regions of Canada as well”.

Director of the Internationalization Office at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada’s eastern province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Sonja Knutson noted that international student enrolment does not always result in revenue surpluses.

“While growth in international student enrolment across Canada is continuing – with last year seeing a big jump – it’s important to note that the growth in enrolment does not automatically equal revenue surpluses,” she said.

“In some cases international student enrolment is helping to balance drops in domestic student enrolment, with little net gain in revenue given the increased levels of services and supports necessary to properly support increased diversity on campus.”

Knutson added that with increased enrolments, it’s important that spending on international student support also rises.

“It is critical tuition fees from international students go towards international offices that specifically serve their needs as well as other student life and academic support units on campuses.

“It is critical tuition fees from international students go towards international offices”

“There is no pan-Canadian formula for this as each university has its own model for tuition distribution.”

International student recruitment in Canada is based on a mix of academic, socio-cultural, political and economic priorities, Knutson noted.

“The IHE profession in Canada has noticed a greater focus on economic rationales than over the previous 20 years. Sometimes the desired economic outcome is straightforward revenue, but in many parts of Canada the economic value of international students lies more in them choosing to stay and work post-graduation.

In many areas outside the big cities, Canada has experienced demographic decline, she added.

“International students are seen as a solution to counterbalance this decline, if they choose to stay,” Knutson said.

“While the overriding reason is still economic, “success” is not based on tuition targets, but on supporting students academically, socially and culturally to develop a sense of belonging, to thrive, and choose to stay in the region.”

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